by Health & Wellness Contributor Stacey
**From the Gentlemen's Special Edition of The Feeder**
How many of your kitchen pantries are heaving with buckets of protein, bottles of capsules or tubs of powders? You aren’t alone. Let’s go through the science and see if they help you meet your goals or if they are better formulated for the rubbish bin!
First off, food should be your first and primary source of nutrients. But if you aren’t eating a balanced diet, are under constant stress, aren’t sleeping well or engaging in strenuous physical activity you may need a little help. But let’s be clear, if there’s lots of late-night binging on burgers and fries and nightly beers with the guys, then that’s the problem you should fix, not loading up on the latest supplements in hopes of short cutting your way to better health.
If you are following a nutrition plan and getting a good night’s sleep, but still feel bit sluggish at the gym, check in with your doctor to make sure there is nothing else going on. If the doc gives you the go ahead, think about these few supplements to help you get what you need.
Important Note: Keep in mind that the supplement industry is not regulated. So choosing options that have been third-party tested is important. Seals from the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) or National Science Foundations’ Good Manufacturing Practices (NSF-GMP) help ensure that the supplement contains what the label says it does, meets stringent requirements for levels of contaminants, as well as verifies that good manufacturing practices were followed.
Multivitamin Insurance Policy
Even with the best plan in place, with busy schedules and fast-paced lifestyles we may skimp on nutrition more than just a few times a week. A multivitamin is an insurance policy—a supplement not a replacement. Men should look for a good quality multi-formulated vitamin containing Vitamins B12, D, and B6, plus zinc and selenium—two minerals important to men’s health. Most men don’t need iron, which in older men may do more harm than good. So unlike many formulations for women, men’s multis usually do not contain iron.
Bump of Protein
Protein powders are some of the most popular sports supplements on the market today. They come in many varieties and flavors—whey, soy, pea, casein, etc. Most people can get all of the protein they need from foods. But, powders are a really convenient and portable way to get your protein in after a hard workout.
How much & what type?
20-40g of protein is a good target for a post-workout recovery meal.
Whey protein is an abundant source of branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), important for rebuilding and repairing muscles after a workout, and is easily absorbed. Whey has a smooth, somewhat creamy texture and mildly nutty taste. However, some people are sensitive to whey, a milk protein, so if you have negative reactions to whey (bloating, gas) it’s best to try another source.
Soy protein is an option, for vegetarians/vegans and those with milk sensitivities. A complete protein containing all of the essential amino acids with a slightly grainy texture and a stronger taste than whey.
Soy is the subject of much controversy, especially when it comes to hormonal health. But, the body of research shows that soy food supplements have no effect on testosterone in men, so you can relax about that.
Pea protein is highly digestible and free from the top eight food allergens, including soy and dairy. Pea protein blends well with water making it less gritty and more palatable than some of the other plant proteins.
Energy Booster: Caffeine
Believe it or not, caffeine is a very well-researched supplement for increasing energy levels and is most likely to help with endurance activities such as distance running and sports that require intense intermittent effort like soccer and tennis. Caffeine has not been shown to be beneficial in short intense efforts such as sprinting or weightlifting.
Responses to caffeine vary, but typical doses to aid in performance range from 1-3mg of caffeine per kilogram of body weight taken 15-60 minutes prior to exercise. For context, a cup of coffee has between 85-100mg of caffeine.
More is not always better. High levels of caffeine can cause declines in performance with side effects such as increased heart rate, anxiety, and sleep disturbances.
Creatine supplements in scientific studies have shown to increase strength, power and the ability to contract muscles for maximal effort. Creatine is a naturally occurring compound found in muscles and an important fuel for short, high intensity bouts of exercise like sprints and weightlifting and for sports requiring intense effort followed by short recovery periods. Supplementation increases the amount of creatine that is stored in the muscles and can help delay fatigue during high intensity exercise. If you are looking to improve your performance in your next marathon, however, leave the creatine on the shelf.
Athletes often take a loading dose of 20-25g per day of creatine monohydrate in divided doses for 5-7 days followed by 3-5 grams per day thereafter. Creatine is considered likely safe for long term usage, even up to five years. But, keep in mind creatine is really for those really putting in the many hours at the gym or in sport...if you aren’t exercising then it won’t do any good.
A healthy diet rich in nutrients, proteins, vitamins and minerals is always best, but not always possible. If you’re looking for a little support, carefully selected supplements can help.
As with any change in diet or exercise, always consult with a health professional for your individual nutrient needs.